Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes


"The majority is wicked."

"We settle things by a majority vote, and the psychological effect of doing that is to create the impression that the majority is probably right. Of course, on any fine issue the majority is sure to be wrong. Think of taking a majority vote on the best music. Jazz would win over Chopin. Or on the best novel. Many cheap scribblers would win over Tolstoy. And any day a prizefight will get a bigger crowd, larger gate receipts and wider newspaper publicity than any new revelation of goodness, truth or beauty could hope to achieve in a century."

"Few are open to conviction, but the majority of men are open to persuasion."

"The vast majority of people are slavers to their desires. The true king who deserves a royal crown is only a person who is free from the pressures of his desires."

"Instead of comparing our lot with that of those who are more fortunate than we are, we should compare it with the lot of the great majority of our fellow men. It then appears that we are among the privileged."

"The majority of man are subjective toward themselves and objective toward all others, terribly objective sometimes, but the real task is in fact to be objective towards oneself and subjective towards all others."

"We are not asking our children to do their own best but to be the best. Education is in danger of becoming a religion based on fear; its doctrine is to compete. The majority of our children are being led to believe that they are doomed to failure in a world which has room only for those at the top."

"For the great majority of mankind are satisfied with appearances, as though they were realities and are often more influenced by the things that seem than by those that are."

"The majority of men are more capable of great actions than of good ones."

"When a law is proposed in the people’s assembly, what is asked of them is not precisely whether they approve of the proposition or reject it, but whether it is in conforming with the general will which is theirs; each by giving his vote gives his opinion on this question, and the counting of votes yields a declaration of the general will. When, therefore, the opinion contrary to my own prevails, this proves only that I have made a mistake, and that what I believed to be the general will was not so. If my particular opinion had prevailed against the general will, I should have done something other than what I had willed, and then I should not have been free. This presupposes, it is true, that all characteristics of the general will are still to be found in the majority; when these cease to be there, no matter what position men adopt, there is no longer any freedom."

"The world is judged by the majority of its people, and an individual by the majority of his deeds. Happy he who performs a good deed: that may tip the scale for him and the world."

"People today live without faith. On the one hand, the minority of wealthy, educated people, having freed themselves from the hypnotism of the Church, believe in nothing. They look upon all faiths as absurdities or as useful means of keeping the masses in bondage - no more. On the other hand, the vast majority, poor, uneducated, but for the most part truly sincere, remain under the hypnotism of the Church and therefore think they believe and have faith. But this is not really faith, for instead of throwing light on man’s position in the world it only darkens it."

"The vast majority of the race, whether savage or civilized, are secretly kind-hearted and shrink from inflicting pain, but in the presence of the aggressive and pitiless minority they don't dare to assert themselves."

"The majority of people who seek physical pleasures and all forms of entertainment are trying to push away the gnawing feeling of emptiness in their lives and the sadness that is an integral part of worldly matters."

"What the mass media offers is not popular art, but entertainment which is intended to be consumed like food, forgotten, and replaced by a new dish. This is bad for everyone; the majority lose all genuine taste of their own, and the minority become cultural snobs."

"Tolerance of opinions which are thought to be innocuous is as easy, as acts of charity that entail no sacrifice. But the test of a free society is its tolerance of what is deplored or despised by a majority of its members. The argument for such tolerance must be made on the ground that it is useful to the society... that free societies are better fitted to survive than closed societies."

"The fact remains that the overwhelming majority of people who have become wealthy have become so thanks to work they found profoundly absorbing. The long term study of people who eventually became wealthy clearly reveals that their "luck" arose from accidental dedication they had to an arena they enjoyed."

"Justice, not the majority, should rule."

"I can think of few important movements for reform in which success was won by any; method other than that of an energetic minority presenting the indifferent majority with a fait accompli, which was then accepted."

"People do not understand liberty or majorities. The will of the majority is the will of a rabble. Democracy is leveling - this is inconsistent with true liberty."

"(Congress is) functioning the way the Founding Fathers intended - not very well. They understood that if you move too quickly, our democracy will be less responsible to the majority."

"One with the law is a majority."

"Progress begins with the minority. It is completed by persuading the majority, by showing the reason and the advantage of the step forward, and that is accomplished by appealing to the intelligence of the majority."

"Man-made barriers, laws, social customs and prejudices continue to keep a majority of women in an inferior position without full control of our lives and bodies. From infancy throughout life, in personal and public relations, in the family, in the schools, in every occupation and profession, too often we find our individuality, our capabilities, our earning powers diminished by discriminatory practices and outmoded ideas of what a woman is, what a woman can do, and what a woman must be... We lack effective political and economic power We have only minor and insignificant roles in making, interpreting and enforcing our laws, in running our political parties, businesses, unions, schools and institutions, in directing the media, in governing our country, in deciding issues of war or peace. We do not seek special privileges, but we demand as a human right a full voice and role for women in determining the destiny of our world, our nation, our families and our individual lives."

"The Soul selects her own society - then - shuts the door - to her divine majority - present no more."

"The majority of people are naturally straddlers. They are not in the world to pioneer but to be as happy as possible. If pioneering in a cause brings discomfort, they would rather not be among the pioneers. they would rather stand on the sidelines and, in the combat between truth and error, wait and see which proves the stronger. Though they may have a lazy faith that truth at last will win, they do not wish to lend a premature support."

"The oppression of a majority is detestable and odious: the oppression of a minority is only by one degree less detestable and odious."

"To be loved for what one is, is the greatest exception. The great majority love in others only what they lend him, their own selves, their version of him."

"People often say that, in a democracy, decisions are made by a majority of the people. Of course, that is not true. Decisions are made by a majority of those who make themselves heard and who vote - a very different thing."

"Success, recognition, and conformity are the bywords of the modern world where everyone seems to crave the anesthetizing security of being identified with the majority."

"Even if for every hundred correct things we did we committed ten thousand mistakes, our revolution would still be - and it will be in the judgment of history - great and invincible; for this is the first time that not a minority, not the rich alone, not the educated alone, but the real masses, the overwhelming majority of the working people are themselves building a new life and are by their own experience solving the most difficult problems of socialist organization."

"Plainly, the central idea of secession is the essence of anarchy. A majority, held in restraint by constitutional checks, and imitations, and always changing easily with deliberate changes of popular opinions and sentiments, is the only true sovereign of a free people. Whoever rejects it does, of necessity, fly to anarchy or to despotism. Unanimity is impossible; the rule of a minority, as a permanent arrangement, is wholly inadmissible; so that, rejecting the majority principle, anarchy, or despotism in some form, is all that is left."

"It doesn’t take a majority to make a rebellion; it takes only a few determined leaders and a sound cause."

"The great majority of us are required to live a life of constant, systematic duplicity. Your health is bound to be affected, if day after day, you say the opposite of what you feel, if you grovel before what you dislike and rejoice at what brings you nothing but misfortune. Our nervous system isn't just a fiction, it's a part of our physical body, our soul exists in space inside us, like the teeth in our mouth. It can't be forever violated with impunity."

"All politics are based on indifference of the majority."

"The great achievements have always been individualistic. Indeed, any original achievement implies separation from the majority. Though society may honor achievement, it can never produce it."

"The voice of the majority is no proof of justice."

"I believe democracy to be of all forms of government the most natural and the most consonant with individual liberty. In it no one transfers his natural right so absolutely that he has no further voice in affairs, he only hands it over to the majority of a society, whereof he is a unit. Thus all men remain, as they were in the state of nature, equals."

"Constitutions are checks upon the hasty action of the majority. They are the self-imposed restraints of a whole people upon a majority of them to secure sober action and a respect for the rights of the minority."

"A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largesse from the public treasure. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidate promising the most benefits from the public treasure, with the result that a democracy collapses over loose fiscal policy."

"Eager and apprehensive men of small property constitute the class that is constantly increased by the equality of conditions. Hence in democratic communities the majority of the people do not clearly see what they have to gain by a revolution, but they continually and in a thousand ways feel that they might lose by one."

"The power of the majority... is not unlimited. Above it in the moral world are humanity, justice, and reason; and in the political world, vested rights."

"The majority of those who flatter themselves on their knowledge of the human heart do not separate their boasted insight from their unfavorable feeling about humanity... Nothing indeed imparts a psychological air so much as an habitual attitude of depreciation."

"The vast majority… of all cancers, cardiovascular diseases, and other forms of degenerative illness can be prevented… simply by adopting a plant-based diet."

"One instance of the innate and ineradicable inequality of men is their tendency to fall into two classes of leaders and followers. The latter constitute the vast majority; they stand in need of an authority which will make decisions for them and to which they for the most part offer an unqualified submission. This suggests that more care should be taken than hitherto to educate an upper stratum of men with independent minds, not open to intimidation and eager in the pursuit of truth, whose business it would be to give direction to the dependent masses."

"Proximity to the crowd, to the majority view, spells the death of creativity. For a soul can create only when alone, and some are chosen for the flowering that takes place in the dark avenues of the night."

"Intellectual freedom means the right to re-examine much that has been long taken for granted. A free man must be a reasoning man, and he must dare to doubt what a legislative or electoral majority may most passionately assert."

"[A majority of people] are not theoretical atheists; they are practical atheists. They do not deny the existence of God with their lips, but they are continually denying his existence with their lives."

"The saving of our world from pending doom will come not through the complacent adjustment of the conforming majority, but through the creative maladjustment of a nonconforming minority."

"That government is or ought to be instituted for the common benefit, protection, and security of the people, nation, or community; of all the various modes and forms of government, that is best which is capable of producing the greatest degree of happiness and safety, and is most effectually secured against the danger of mal-administration, and that whenever any government shall be found inadequate, or contrary to these purposes, a majority of the community hath an indubitable, unalienable, and indefeasible right to reform, alter or abolish it in such manner as shall be judged most conducive to the weal."